Robert Newman: The comedian on freestyle skating, West End lies and evolution


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The Independent Online

I doubt anyone has had a fulfilling experience going to an arena-comedy gig Big-show arenas are compromised ergonomically, though I blame myself for the success of them, as I set a bad precedent. [Newman and his then-comedy partner David Baddiel were the first comedians to sell out the 12,000-seat Wembley Arena, in 1993.] I felt discombobulated and everything was out of time. Even the great Steve Martin struggled [with arena-sized shows]. My favourite gigs are places with low ceilings and the smell of gig juice on the floor.

Skateboarding and stand-up are the only two things I've been any good at I picked a skateboard up in the first wave, in 1976, and have been freestyle skating for 38 years. It was my life's passion, but now I'm too old to go to a skate park. Instead I watch loads of skating videos on YouTube and have fantasies about building my own private half-pipe. I'd have to wear the sorts of panic alarms old people have around my neck, though, in case I have a fall.

I have a new theory of evolution It is not actually about survival of the fittest. It's the survival of the misfits that generate new species. In populations, there are always struggling misfits living on the edges, isolated from the mainstream, and their genes mutate. So when the going gets tough and a sudden [calamitous] geo-historical change occurs to the general population, it is the misfits on the fringes who survive.

There have been astonishing discoveries in the field of evolutionary biology It turns out that you can inherit acquired characteristics [the emerging field of epigenetics]. In the news recently, for example, it was shown that when a grandfather rat had learnt to associate a certain smell with fear, then his offspring and heirs were also scared at their first whiff of the same smell. I was getting a recklessly driven minicab home from a gig the other day and hanging from the mirror was a pungent pine air freshener. I tried to control my fear, because I don't want my grandchildren to feel edgy in a coniferous forest.

I get stressed out by all sorts of unimportant things So, while I'll worry about why someone gave me a funny look three months ago, I won't be thinking about why the person I live with has just burst into tears. At gigs, I can get a double encore but all I'll think about is the one bloke who sat there with his arms folded, looking grumpy. I'll just be saying to myself, "What's with that guy, why is he looking so mardy?"

I have total respect for the lad who tried a citizen's arrest on Tony Blair [The bar worker Twiggy Garcia approached the former Prime Minister at an east London restaurant last month.] I'd find that difficult because I'm very bad at confrontation – but I admire the courage of someone who does try to arrest a war criminal who launched an unprovoked, illegal war against Iraq. Should Blair be arrested and charged? Yes, otherwise international law is meaningless.

I'd like to be a West End ombudsman ensuring that shows adhere to their titles While I think no one would complain if there's no mockingbird in To Kill a Mockingbird, or no cat in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, when I'm told there's 12 Angry Men: well, that's something [to complain about]. In my opinion, only six of them are actually angry. Two of them are sulking, and as for the other four…

Robert Newman, 49, is a stand-up comedian and author of four novels, including last year's 'The Trade Secret'. He is currently touring the UK with his show, 'New Theory of Evolution'. For tickets: